Tahar Ben Jelloun , (born December 1, 1944, Fès, Morocco), Moroccan-French novelist, poet, and essayist who wrote expressively about Moroccan culture, the immigrant experience, human rights, and sexual identity.
While studying philosophy at Muḥammad V University in Rabat, Ben Jelloun began to write poems for the politically charged journal Soufflés. After publishing his first collection of poetry, Hommes sous linceul de silence (1971; “Men Under the Shroud of Silence”), he moved to France. There he continued to write poems, collected in Cicatrices du soleil (1972; “Scars of the Sun”), Le Discours du chameau (1974; “The Discourse of the Camel”), and Grains de peau (1974; “Particles of Skin”), but he started to focus on other forms of writing as well. His first novel was Harrouda (1973), an erotic poetic evocation of infancy, youth, and coming to manhood in Fès and Tangier.
In 1975 Ben Jelloun received a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Paris; his dissertation was published as La Plus Haute des solitudes (1977; “The Highest of Solitudes”). In 1976 he wrote a novel based on his research, La Réclusion solitaire (Solitaire), about the misery of the North African immigrant worker; it was also staged as a play, Chronique d’une solitude (“Chronicle of Loneliness”). In the same year, he published Les Amandiers sont morts de leurs blessures (“The Almond Trees Are Dead from Their Wounds”)—poems and stories on his grandmother’s death, the Palestinian question, North African immigration to France, love, and eroticism. A third novel, Moha le fou, Moha le sage (1978; “Moha the Fool, Moha the Wise”), is a satire of the modern North African state.
Much of Ben Jelloun’s work in the early 1980s—notably the poetry collection À l’insu du souvenir (1980; “Unknown to Memory”) and the semiautobiographical novel L’Écrivain public (1983; “The Public Writer”)—was admired for its ability to evoke reality through fantasy, lyric, and metaphor and for its author’s conviction that his art must express the struggle for